Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression which usually occurs over the winter months. In its mildest form it can also sometimes be referred to as the winter blues.

In this article:

What is seasonal affective disorder?


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How Chemist Online can help

What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder differs from normal depression or post-partum depression in that it is triggered by seasonal-related factors, such as: a lack of sunlight, and possible changes to some neurotransmitters in the brain as a result of spending prolonged periods indoors. Both of these factors commonly occur throughout the winter months (usually from November through to the following March or April, when symptoms generally lift.)

Note: A much less common form of seasonal affective disorder can occur during the summertime, usually due to an abnormal sensitivity to light, or a repressed memory of a traumatic or upsetting life event being uprooted with the arrival of the summer season. This can cause depression-related symptoms, which, in turn, lift again as the season ends. As summer seasonal affective disorder is fairly uncommon, this article will focus upon winter seasonal affective disorder primarily.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:

low mood

loss of interest in life in general

loss of enjoyment of activities you would normally look forward to and get pleasure from

lack of motivation, energy and ability to concentrate on even the smallest of everyday tasks


excessive sleeping, or difficulty in getting off to sleep

increased or diminished appetite

weight loss or weight gain

diminished sex drive

People with seasonal affective disorder can also experience physical symptoms, such as aches and pains, headaches, and even heart palpitations (in rare cases).

Where seasonal affective disorder is particularly severe, sufferers may develop suicidal tendencies. If you are feeling like this, then please make an appointment with your GP immediately. He or she will be able to offer you the appropriate treatment and advice.

Although the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is as yet unknown, it is thought that symptoms develop in response to a lack of sunlight during the winter period. This may have a negative impact on the messages the brain receives from the eyes, and create neurochemical and hormone imbalances as a result. The level of this disturbance can vary from person to person, and accounts for why people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder describe their symptoms differently.

Also, some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing seasonal affective disorder as the winter period looms. That is, a family member from a previous generation suffered from seasonal affective disorder and so the vulnerability to the next generation developing the illness is ‘handed down’.

If you think you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, arrange an appointment with your GP. He or she will consider your mental (and medical health) history to date, and ask you some questions about how you are feeling. They may also carry out a physical examination to rule out factors which may be contributing to your mood, such as an under-active thyroid, for example.

You may be referred to a psychiatrist. However, this only occurs in rare cases.

Most people with seasonal affective disorder find that they are able to cope over the winter period by taking over-the-counter remedies or prescribed treatments from the GP.

Treatments for seasonal affective disorder can include:

Light therapy – a daily session of sitting in front of a bright light (that has been specially designed or ‘purpose-built’ for sufferers of seasonal affective disorder). Think of it as getting a dose of artificial sunlight each day, in the morning or afternoon, depending upon what works best for you.

An exercise programme – easing symptoms through regular exercise taken in weekly sessions throughout the winter months.

Talking treatments – confiding in a close family member or friend about your feelings.

A self-help programme – gaining a better understanding about your condition can help you to cope with it (and in some cases, even overcome it) through books, audio tapes, pamphlets with explanatory information about seasonal affective disorder, and also through joining an appropriate self-help group in your local area or even online (e.g., an internet forum or secure chatroom). Also, it can be a good idea to sit in well-lit rooms and to try to get as much natural sunlight as possible.

Prescribed anti-depressants – anti-depressants such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can be effective particularly if taken whilst also attending seasonal affective disorder counselling.

Counselling – a form of therapy with a trained professional who will sympathetically listen to you, and try to help you by suggesting coping mechanisms.

Note: Treatments may also be combined, where appropriate.

How Chemist Online can help
As we discussed in the Symptoms section of this article, people with seasonal affective disorder can also sometimes experience physical symptoms such as headaches and general aches and pains. Through this website we have a range of treatments available to buy which can help with this, such as: Anadin Extra Tablets and Nurofen Express Caplets which can both provide fast, effective relief.

Note: If you have been prescribed anti-depressants or any other form of medicinal treatment by your GP, please consult them before taking any other over-the-counter medication(s).

Author's Bio:

Advice & Support
Seasonal Affective Disorders Association (SAD Association)
PO Box 989
BN44 3HG

Depression Alliance
212 Spitfire Studios
63–71 Collier Street
London N1 9BE
Tel: 0845 123 23 20

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